Cerebral palsy is damage to the part of the brain that controls motor skills. Children born with this condition suffer physical impairment, usually profound and lifelong. For parents, the heartbreak and financial burden of caring for such a child are overwhelming. Most parents are immediately concerned about what the future holds for their child and how they can afford the necessary support through childhood and into adulthood. The special needs of a child with cerebral palsy can be overwhelming at times, but there are resources available to parents who need help and answers.
The Becker Law Firm has a demonstrated record of holding doctors and hospitals accountable when their negligence leads to birth injuries. With offices in Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio, we take cases from across the state and are frequently called upon for co-counsel or advice in litigation in other states.
If you suspect medical malpractice caused your child to be born with brain injury, contact an Ohio cerebral palsy attorney at our firm for a free initial consultation. Call (440) 252-4399.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Although the most apparent symptoms of cerebral palsy are impaired movement and motor function, those impairments begin because of an injury to the brain. There are many different types of injuries that can cause cerebral palsy, including difficult labor that causes lack of oxygen to the brain, head trauma, meningitis, and infection. Cerebral palsy in the unborn baby may develop during pregnancy or after birth but often results from (a) oxygen deprivation or (b) traumatic head injuries during labor and delivery.
It commonly is secondary to misdiagnosis or negligence in prenatal care, improper birthing technique, or failure of medical staff to recognize fetal distress or newborn complications such as:
- Prolapsed umbilical cord (cord compression during birth, cutting off blood and oxygen)
- Fetal distress resulting in delayed C-section
- Head trauma from delivery forceps, cephalopelvic disproportion, vacuum extractor
- Newborn jaundice
- Premature birth, as from undiagnosed preeclampsia, incompetent cervix, preterm labor
Fetal heart monitors and other vital sign monitoring should alert nurses to fetal distress and they should notify the doctor immediately. The OB/GYN or delivering caregiver must make the correct decision on continuing labor toward a vaginal delivery or surgical intervention.
Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors and Statistics
Some babies have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. Babies who are born premature or with a low birth rate are more likely to have cerebral palsy. Studies also indicate that mothers over age 40 or under age 20 have a higher chance of delivering a baby who has cerebral palsy.
Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy after birth often have other medical conditions, including seizure disorders, developmental delays, and feeding problems.
Cerebral palsy statistics:
- One in every 278 children has some type of cerebral palsy
- 764,000 people in the United States have cerebral palsy
- 8,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year in the United States
- 30% of children with cerebral palsy have a seizure disorder
- Proper care of a child with cerebral palsy may require $6 million or more
Types of Cerebral Palsy Injuries
There are different types of cerebral palsy, manifesting in a range of motor and sensory impairments. Those afflicted may have severe problems with coordination and balance, uncontrollable tremors, weak muscle tone, or no muscle control at all. They may have loss of speech and vision conditions. Spasms and muscular atrophy often develop into permanent deformities.
Types of cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy: 70% of children with cerebral palsy have the spastic variety. It is characterized by underdeveloped limbs with contractures (characterized by rigidity of joints). Children may have hemiplegia (spasticity on one side of the body); paraplegia (affects the legs); diplegia (impairs either both the arms or both legs); or quadriplegia (all four limbs are impaired).
- Athetoid Cerebral Palsy: 20% of children with cerebral palsy have Athetoid cerebral palsy. It is usually characterized by slow and involuntary movements of the extremities.
- Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: About 10% of children with cerebral palsy have Ataxic cerebral palsy. It is characterized by weakness, lack of coordination, and difficulty with fine motor skills.
- Mixed Cerebral Palsy: Some children have multiple types of cerebral palsy.
Most children with cerebral palsy have no cognitive deficits; it’s a tortured life, trapped in a body that won’t cooperate. Parents suffer too, from the grief, exhaustion of round-the-clock care, and financial pressures. Care for a child with cerebral palsy—physical therapy, nursing care, special education, medications—can easily exceed millions of dollars over a lifetime.
Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Children with cerebral palsy can be loving, intelligent and successful. Some forms of cerebral palsy are mild, while others are more severe. However, every child should be allowed to reach his or her full potential. Access to innovative medical technologies and specialists will allow them to reach that potential.
Cerebral palsy is not a disease and there is no cure. However, there are time-tested therapies and treatments, as well as exciting new medical developments. Children with cerebral palsy can benefit from a team of doctors and other healthcare professionals, including orthopedists, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, pediatric neurologists, and social workers. A child’s quality of life can improve with therapy, mobility aids, and even assistive communication devices. Surgery can sometimes help to loosen up the limbs and prevent worsening contractures. Repeated physical therapy can help children to train their bodies to perform ordinary tasks that are made difficult by their condition.
In every cerebral palsy lawsuit, our Ohio cerebral palsy lawyers work with medical experts who create a comprehensive Life Care Plan detailing the medicine, surgeries, therapies, and adaptive equipment that your child will need now and into the future.
Contact The Becker Law Firm online or by phone at (440) 252-4399 to schedule a free consultation about your case.